Canyonlands National Park and Delicate Arch in Arches NP

After mountain biking and eating lunch, Jordan, my parents and I drove the ~45 min to Canyonlands National Park. We didn’t have much time to spend here because we had plans to hike Delicate Arch back at Arches, so we made a quick stop at the visitor’s center and drove to the trail to Mesa Arch, one of the most popular spots in the Island in the Sky District.

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The trail was short, but offered some great views. You can see the La Sal Mountains in the background.

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What an awesome spot! There were lots of people wandering around the arch so I wanted until nobody was under it to take some good pictures.

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There is a pretty steep drop off right behind the arch…scary!

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Mesa Arch
Total distance .7 mi RT

We didn’t waste much time and drove straight to Arches National Park. My dad had said a few days earlier that his goal was hike to the famous arch. It was only a 3 mile hike total but it was warm out. I told him he could do it with us while my mom waited for us at the car. She knows her limits and decided it was too hot for her, so she was fine with us going ahead. The trail starts next to an old homestead where you can go up and look in. It is a one room house that an entire family lived in–talk about tiny home.

 

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The trail is nice and wide for a while with a gentle incline. Eventually you come to a big slickrock hill you have to climb up, with cairns to guide you.

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Eventually you come to a narrow ledge that has a steep drop off into a crater-like hole. I didn’t want to particularly fall down in there.

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Is this what walking on Mars would feel like?

We rounded a corner and finally saw it. Holy crap!

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There is a line to get your picture under the arch

Walking up there is another large crater with a steep drop off. Yikes.

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My turn! At first I wasn’t going to go up to it, but Jordan convinced me to. I mean, when was I going to come back here. I did it!

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What an epic end to an amazing trip. I was pretty tired from mountain biking earlier in the day, but I am so glad we hiked to Delicate Arch. My dad made it the entire way, too. So impressive! I was so happy I got to do this hike with him. I wish I had gotten some pictures with him!

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Jordan by a different kind of cairn

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It was a gorgeous evening.

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Heading back down the slickrock hill.

On the way back down we stopped to see some rock art, more petroglyfs.

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Delicate Arch
Distance 3.4 mi RT
Time 2 hr, 7 min, including stops
Elevation 622′

I soaked it all in since this was our final day in Utah. I’m missing it for sure. It is fitting that yesterday was the 100th Birthday of the National Park Service. I am so grateful that I got to experience so many incredible national parks on this trip!  There are still so many more I want to visit. If it weren’t for my parents, it wouldn’t have been possible for us-they planned almost the entire vacation!

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Missing the Utah sunsets

We had dinner at a restaurant across the street at the Broken Oar and got to enjoy some Polygamy Porter-ha!

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Mountain Biking in Klondike Bluffs, Moab, Utah

Our last full day of the trip was an action-packed one. Jordan and I were on the fence about renting mountain bikes during the trip, but decided to go for it on the last day. We were in Moab, after all, where some of the best and most famous mountain biking trails are located. Our hotel was also right across from the best bike rental shop in Moab, Poison Spider. The night before we picked out and got fit for our bikes. I chose an Ibis Mojo HD3, an extremely high end, 27.5 wheel size, carbon fiber, full suspension mountain bike. We asked our friends who had come to Moab previously on a mountain biking trip where the best place to go would be. They recommended Klondike Bluffs, just outside of Moab. The guys at Poison Spider installed a suction-cup bike rack on our rental vehicle, a Jeep Cherokee, while we picked out the bikes.  We brought them home for the night so we could get up early and hit the trails the next morning. We parked at the North trail head off of 191 since the South Entrance was closed. The trail names are dinosaur themed because dinosaur footprints can be seen on the trail. Crazy! Here is a great description of the trails.

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It was unlike any mountain biking I’ve ever done! It was so different out here because it was so wide open! I’m so used to riding through the woods, afraid of hitting trees, I actually enjoyed riding these open trails much more.

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Riding the Ibis Mojo was amazing. I can see why it is such an expensive bike. I felt comfortable on it and it rolled over every rock effortlessly!

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Can you spot the jack rabbit?

 

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I was worried it would be hard to find the trail, but they were marked very well.

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Green Lizard Guy

We stuck to mostly beginner/intermediate trails and rode 11.3 miles total in about 1 hr, 45 minutes.

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We were so glad we decided to rent bikes. We got out early (around 7:30) to beat the heat. It started to get hot fast, and by the time we were done it was in the high 80s.

For lunch we went to the Quesadilla Mobilla, a food truck in Moab serving what else–quesadillas! They were delicious! We liked them so much that Jordan and I ate lunch here two days in a row. Yum! When can we move to Moab?

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The Southern Belle – Shredded beef with cheddar/jack cheese, sautéed corn, sautéed onions and roasted sweet potatoes

 

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Hiking the Devil’s Garden, Arches National Park

Finally, we arrived in Moab! Not only is Moab close to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, it is the mountain biking capital of the US! First on our to-do list while in Moab: hike the Devil’s Garden Trail in Arches National Park.

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Balanced Rock

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The Start of Devil’s Garden

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The Devil’s Garden is the longest hiking trail in the park at about 7 miles RT. With side trails to many different arches and cool rock formations, it was high on my list !

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Tunnel Arch

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Pine Tree Arch

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Landscape Arch

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At one point the trail got a little hairy. It went up and over these big slickrock ledges, with cairns marking the path.

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Partition Arch

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Partition Arch

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Underneath Navajo Arch

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How do these arches form, you ask? According to NPS.gov, “drops of rainwater soak into the porous Entrada sandstone easily and then slowly dissolve the calcite bonding the sand together – in other words, rotting the rock from the inside out. Water puddles just above the denser Carmel layer where it erodes a cavity, like food trapped between your teeth. In winter, water trapped between the two layers expands when it freezes and pries the rock apart.” Geology is cool!

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My parents had turned back about a mile into the hike due to heat. Jordan and I had wanted to do the whole thing, but it was quickly getting hotter. Jordan’s legs were also still sore from the half marathon, so after we saw Navajo Arch we turned back.

Protip: Get to Arches early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid traffic, crowds, and heat. Bringing a lot of water on your hike is also ESSENTIAL! It is recommended to drink 1 gal of water per day when in the park.

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My dad brought hand held two-way radios with him on the trip, which Jordan and I used to communicate with my parents when on the trail since we separated often. There is little to no cell phone service in the parks so this was a great way to talk to each other.

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Devil’s Garden Trail

4.5 miles RT to Navajo Arch (trail continues on via a primitve loop)
~ 2 hrs

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On the drive out, we stopped at the Delicate Arch viewing area. It was so far away! My dad was determined to hike up to the actual arch. It is Utah’s most famous arch after all. Hiking to the Delicate Arch was on the agenda for the next day, our last full day of the trip.

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Delicate Arch from afar

From the car we saw a little jack rabbit. Too cute!

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After going back to the hotel and getting some food, we drove back into the park for the sunset.

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The colors are just spectacular here! I was not ready for the trip to be over.

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Looking down into the Moab Fault

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Hiking Capitol Gorge at Capitol Reef National Park

We said goodbye to Bryce Canyon and headed to our next stop on the tour of the Utah Five, Capitol Reef National Park. The drive was long, but scenic. Our stop at this park was brief since we were en route to Moab, but still pretty awesome.

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visitor center with The Castle behind it

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Panorama Point

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We drove to the trail head for Capital Gorge, a short hike within the park.

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It was getting pretty hot so we didn’t hike all the way up to the tanks, but had it been cooler we might have. The hike through the gorge was pretty awesome.

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Petroglyphs!

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The writings on these rocks have been here since the 1880s when the early Mormon pioneers carved their names into the sandstone.

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The Pioneer Register

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On the way out of the park, we stopped at another pull off to see more petroglyphs.

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Can you spot the ancient drawings in the rock?

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The walk through Capitol Gorge was only 2.1 miles RT and took us roughly 1 hour at our slow pace.

 

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Horseback Riding into Bryce Canyon

The Bryce Canyon Half Marathon was over by 9:00am, and that day Jordan and I didn’t feel like hiking. After a delicious breakfast at our lodge Ruby’s Inn, we opted for the next best thing, horseback riding! We both love horses and my parents do too, so we thought a ride through the canyon would be a great way for all of us to see the sights. My mom made reservations with Canyon Rides. They have a stable right at the Lodge in Bryce Canyon. I would **HIGHLY** recommend booking a ride with these guys. They were phenomenal.

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Since I have a few years of riding experience (I rode Western from age 6-14!) and they put me on a feisty horse named Rooster. Apparently the only horse he liked was Jordan’s horse Spur, so the put me at the end of the line.

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Even though he was spunky, Rooster was a great horse.

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The ride began at the stable right near the rim of Bryce Canyon. We got on our horses and rode down into the Canyon. These rides may not be for those with fear of heights! The horses love to walk right on the edge of the trail, which sometimes included a steep drop off.

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The Wall of Windows

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They don’t allow any backpacks on the ride, however, if you have a Camelbak or hydration pack they do allow it. Jordan and I both had our hydration packs on because we needed to rehydrate after the race. Three hours on horseback in the hot Utah sun would not have been a good time to get dehydrated.

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It was a beautiful day and such a fantastic way to see all the amazing hoodoos in Bryce. The ride took us all through the Canyon. It was a three hour ride that rode the Navajo loop (also a hiking trail), as well as the Peek-a-boo loop.

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I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves.

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The views were jaw-dropping. We also covered way more ground than we would have have hiking, since we had run a half that morning. It was so worth the $$. I loved every minute of it.

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After dinner and relaxing a bit, we decided to spend the evening driving around the National Park. We stopped at most of the turn offs on the main road, including Natural Bridge.

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Pretty awesome!

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For sunset, we stopped at Rainbow Point, the highest point in Bryce Canyon National Park. From here, we could see Aquarius Plateau, Bryce Amphitheater, the Henry Mountains, the Vermilion Cliffs and the White Cliffs.

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It was just incredible to see yet another amazing sunset here. Bryce Canyon will go down as being one of my favorite places. I need to come back to do some actual hiking here. Utah is pretty amazing.

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